SEO, what the hell is this?
In this SEO basics guide for complete beginners, you will learn about the topic you hear everywhere: Search Engine Optimization (=SEO).
In almost every Quora question about how to get more visitors to your Blog/Online-Shop/Business Website, the most upvoted answer tells you to learn SEO.
They promise you tons of free visitors, many orders and endless newsletter sign-ups. Sadly, most of the times their introduction to SEO is hard to understand.
In the following, you will learn what SEO is and how you can use it for massive free traffic!
What is SEO?
SEO is short for “Search Engine Optimization”. This is the act of optimising your website following certain guidelines, making it rank higher in Google and other search engines in order to get organic traffic.
I recently talked to a couple of friends about how I’m currently starting to use SEO on my website. After listening carefully one of them said: “I’m sure you can also pay Google something to rank there.” while another friend added: “Yes, that’s how I thought it works.”. Most of the people that are not really into internet marketing think like that.
But actually, it’s completely different.
While there are a couple of ads on top of the SERP (=Search Engine Results Page), you don’t pay a single dollar to be in main search results. 100s of companies are competing for certain keywords. They are constantly creating great content to rank there. But they surely never pay something to Google for that.
So, how does it work then?
Google is using an Algorithm to rank all the pages on the internet for certain keywords. First of all, so-called “Google Crawlers” visit all the pages that they can find on the internet. They follow links on websites and visit the websites they encounter. While visiting the page, they download the source code and a lot more information about the website. After storing it in a Google database they will just follow all the links on this website and go on crawling.
(In this article I only talk about Google, but it’s pretty much the same for all search engines.)
Now, once they have your site in their database you could theoretically be on the SERP for certain search queries. But that’s not how it works in reality. Without optimising your site for Google you will have a really small chance of ranking there. That’s because of the second part of the equation:
When entering a query into the Google search bar, there’s an Algorithm that’s using more than 200 ranking factors to determine how to rank the pages they have in their database for which search queries. The three most important factors are Backlinks, Content and the Google Rankbrain. Optimising these will give you a pretty good chance for page one, where the traffic comes from. But I will get more into this afterwards.
So basically after you upload a new page or blog post to your website you will decide which search query you want to rank for in Google. Afterwards, you will optimise this blog post for the keywords and also do some work building relevant links to your new post.
Should you use SEO?
Unless you want your website to stay secret and undiscovered, the answer is YES.
SEO will take some time investment (you will get a clearer understanding of what to do afterwards), but once you got it all up and running, the returns are almost infinite. Once you’ve established a certain authority with your page on Google it will be much easier to rank on the first page than before. You can get tons of free traffic with not much additional effort. Also, once your pages rank for certain search queries, they will most likely stay there. Making this traffic something to rely upon. (But never rely on only one traffic source!)
Every kind of page can use SEO to boost their traffic. Follow along with this article to learn the basics. Learn to get all these promised sales and newsletter sign-ups and much more.
How to start with SEO
As I already mentioned there are more than 200 ranking factors determining your position. Nevertheless, three of them have a huge influence on your ranking. If you’re optimising these, you have a pretty good chance of ranking high:
Let’s get started!
This is probably the number one ranking factor for Google: The number and quality of links pointing towards the pages of your site. The more high-quality links a page receives, the higher it ranks. Let’s look at this in more detail.
Every Website (Domain) has a so-called “Domain Authority” (DA) from 0 to 100. This domain authority has a big influence on how easy it is for your pages to rank high on Google. If you have a really high DA, the links to the exact blog post you’re optimising for, do not have to be as many as if you have a low DA. There are a couple of factors determining the domain authority like domain age as well as the backlinks to your domain. So if you have a lot of high-quality links to pages of your website, your DA increases.
Now, every single page on your website has a “Page Authority” (PA), also from 0 to 100. This metric is independent of your DA and is determined only by the links to this exact page.
In general, you can say, that if you have a high DA, you don’t need as many links to a certain page to rank it well. But if you have a low DA while having a high PA for a certain page, you can rank above pages with higher DA.
Quality over quantity
Some years ago times people just built 1000s of links from spammy, irrelevant sites. Submitting their page to article directories that do not matter, just to get the links. Today, you should never do this. Low quality, spammy links can negatively influence your rating. If you build 1000s of them in a short time you can get a manual penalty, removing you from the higher ranks. Or you can get de-indexed, completely removing you from Google.
Today, what really counts is the quality of the back links that you get. One link from the Huffington Post is 100 times more valuable than 1000s irrelevant links from small sites. There’s two things to look out for when building links: The domain authority of the site that links to you and if their website is thematically relevant to the content of your blog post/your website. Google can recognise what topics your blog focuses on and will rank you that way. This is why Wikipedia is below other pages for certain keywords: Wikipedia writes about everything and does not have a thematic focus. This is what makes other websites that are only writing about that topic more valuable to the searcher. They are ranking higher.
So the more high quality links you are getting to a page, the higher your PA, and indirectly also your DA becomes. With a high PA, you’re on a pretty good way to ranking on the first page of Google.
Takeaway: Build links from high quality, relevant pages. Quality over quantity.
There are two things that you can optimise when optimising your content:
- Keyword optimization
- Content quality and relevance
In the early days of SEO keyword optimisation was really important while content quality itself didn’t really matter. Currently, this is shifting as the algorithm gains more and more intelligence: Keywords are losing importance and it’s almost all about the content. While this development is expected to continue in the next years, keywords do still have some kind of relevance and are still worth explaining.
Keyword optimizationAs you already learned, keywords are the queries that users search for in Google. Still 10 years ago you could make some invisible text on your page, copy & paste your target search query 20 times and you would have a good chance of landing on the first page. If you do this today, Google will probably give you a penalty and you will have a hard time trying to get traffic from Google. Later, people flooded their blog posts with the same keyword. They didn’t focus the content on the reader, but rather on the search engine. That’s something that also doesn’t work anymore. It could get you a penalty, and negatively influences your ranks.
First of all, you should determine what keyword your page/blog post should rank for. This a huge part of SEO, but too much to explain here. Check out this guide to get an idea of how to research your Keyword Ideas.
After you’ve found your keyword there are a couple of ways to incorporate them into your content:
- The Page URL
- The Page Title
- The content itself
You should sprinkle your keyword all across your page and in many of the elements I mentioned above. Just make sure it looks natural: Don’t use the exact same keywords all the time. Use some variations that mean the same by using totally different words as well as just replacing a single word by a synonym sometimes. Don’t spam the content, just use the keywords in ways that appear natural.
If you’re using WordPress I highly recommend using the Yoast plugin for on-page SEO. With every page or blog post you create, it gives you clear checklists of all the factors you need to look at, and how to optimise for them.
Content quality and relevance
This is the aspect you should probably put a little more importance on: content quality and relevance is something that’s getting more and more important for your Google ranking. What’s meant here is just what the heading says. You need to create really high-quality content that’s easy to read, provides a lot of value and is entertaining. Start focusing on the reader as that is what Google does. They rank user-friendly pages higher because they want users to get what they are searching for, in the highest quality available.
Things you should look at are:
- Intuitive, clearly structured navigation on the website
- Clear structure of blog posts using different levels of headlines
- Using enough subheadings
- Not having too long paragraphs
- Using rather short sentences and easy to read language
- Using transition words and avoid passive voice
- Creating in-depth content: The more words, the better
- Creating deep content about one topic, rather than broad content about multiple topics
- Focusing on a good user experience: Use Images, Videos and Sound.
- Trying to keep your whole page’s content around one topic. Don’t create posts about SEO and Cooking on the same blog.
You can find a great guide on optimising your on-page SEO here.
This is the third most important ranking factor, yet there’s not that much that we know about it, especially on how to optimise it. “Google Rankbrain” was incorporated into the main algorithm some time ago and is using artificial intelligence to rank pages. We know that this AI will be used to put even more useful pages on top of the search results. What this means is that the top three results will get almost all clicks and those below will almost not get a single one. The Rankbrain is something that also supports the necessity of laser focused blog posts and whole blogs. Focus on one topic and prove to be an expert.
What you can do to optimise for this:
- Absolutely focus your posts on the topic of your blog.
- Use technical optimisations. Improve website speed, use SSL and more…
- Publish a lot, high quality content that proves that you’re an expert.
You can read more about Rankbrain here.
Rankbrain is always learning to rank the best content as high as possible. Focus on creating great content and you’re good to go.
This post is meant to be a rather theoretical introduction in the matter of SEO. I wanted to help you understand what it is even if you’ve never heard about it before and I hope I could achieve it. If not, leave a comment and ask me anything! I would be happy to answer your questions.
For practical implementation guides you could check all these sites:
- The Beginners Guide to SEO – Moz
- 21 Actionable SEO Techniques You Can Use Right Now – Backlinko
- The Definitive Guide to Keyword Research
- This SEO Checklist = 48.7% More Organic Traffic
- On-Page SEO: Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Page
Leave a comment and tell me what you think about that guide. Do you like it? What else would you like to read about? I’m looking forward to hearing from you.